There are approximately 8 to 10 million Roma (gypsies) dispersed
throughout Europe and approximately one million in the US. They
are the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority in Europe but
still have no representation in international circles. Discrimination
against them is widespread in scale and usually brutal.
Originally from India, Roma have been nomadic for
centuries. They arrived in Eastern Europe in 1380. They were known
to travel with musicians, acrobats, dancers and fortune tellers
in highly decorated wagons. Half a million Roma died in Nazi concentration
camps in World War II. Kosovo has been their homeland for at least
By February 2000, 30,000 Roma were left in Kosovo
after more than 100,000 had fled. Now that most Serbs have left
Kosovo also, the Roma may soon be the largest minority group there.
Approximately 300 communities in Kosovo are identified as Roma.
Most live in ghettoes in squalid living conditions. Some have not
received aid from international organizations in a timely manner,
if at all.
Many Roma worked for Serbs after 1990 when Albanians
boycotted all Serbian institutions. Since then they have had a reputation
for siding with Serbs. During the war, they were accused of assisting
Serbs by digging mass graves. They say they are apolitical, trying
to survive, and caught between the struggles of two larger ethnic
groups. But Roma have now been harassed, kidnapped, and killed by
extremist Albanians. Ironically, Roma typically are Muslim and share
the Albanian mother tongue and use Albanian names. Due to their
lower class, they have also been forcibly returned to Kosovo by
Yugoslav authorities and have been unable to seek asylum in many
In July 2000, the Romani World Congress declared itself
a non-territorial nation with a flag, constitution,
and anthem but no borders. A nation without a state. A situation
not unlike Kosovo right now.